This beautiful reference book, a project of the AMIT educational network in Israel, teaches us about the Jewish holidays and the customs and traditions practiced by different Jewish communities around the world — some authentically Jewish, others which developed under the influence of the local environment. Each chapter begins with an explanation of the holiday, biblical references, and its place in Jewish history and geography. AMIT students were asked to describe an aspect of how their immigrant family celebrated the holiday in the “old country,” sometimes with a comment on how that practice differs from their observance since the family’s aliyah to Israel. Many of the descriptions are accompanied by photos of ritual objects, clothing, or food. The author then explains the background for the customs presented. The fascinating traditions come from as many places as the students themselves: Bukhara, Ethiopia, Hungary, India, Iran, Kurdistan, Libya, Morocco, Poland, Romania, Russia, Syria, Tunisia, Yemen. I learned about different Shabbat foods and possible reasons for the havdalah spice box tower shape, about holidays unfamiliar to me such as the Ethiopian Sigd, the Moroccan observance of Mimouna – Isru Chag Pesach (the day after Passover) and different communities’ celebrations of Purim Sheni (second Purim). Bibliography, footnotes, glossary, photo credits.
A Mosaic of Israel’s Traditions: Unity Through Diversity
Miriam Bradman Abrahams is a Cuban-born, Brooklyn-raised, Long Island-residing mom. She is Hadassah Nassau’s One Region One Book chairlady, a freelance essayist, and a certified yoga instructor who has loved reviewing books for the JBC for the past ten years.
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